The 2013 season has become a lost cause for the Florida Panthers, and with the team yet to make a major deal before the trade deadline, the time has come to take a look at what next year looks like for the team. While most of the defensemen and a lot of forwards are signed beyond this summer, the goaltending situation leaves many questions. Injuries decimated the Panthers’ roster this season, and some of the team’s underperforming players are also some of its highest paid.
Panthers fans can rest easy in knowing that youngsters Jonathan Huberdeau, Drew Shore and Quinton Howden are signed for two more seasons, Tomas Fleischmann, Kris Versteeg and Scottie Upshall will all be back as well, as will leading scorer Tomas Kopecky. The top unrestricted free agents on offense are Stephen Weiss and Mike Santorelli, while Peter Mueller, Jack Skille and the suddenly-hot Shawn Matthias are restricted free agents at season’s end. The best move the Panthers can make this off-season could end up being a new deal for Matthias, who has five goals in the last three games.
On defense, the Panthers are in much better shape (for now), as only Tyson Strachan (UFA) and newly-acquired T.J. Brennan (RFA) aren’t signed past the current season. It’s in net where things get tricky, as currently-injured goaltender Jose Theodore will be an unrestricted free agent, and former top prospect Jacob Markstrom will be a restricted free agent. Scott Clemmensen is signed for one more season, but the team seems to have little faith in him this season, and rightly so.
The Panthers have a lot of work to do on the defensive side of the ice this season, but may have to trim some of the overpaid, underperforming players on the offensive side of things before adding to their roster. After winning the Southeast Division last season and (likely) finishing last this season, there are many questions the Panthers need to answer.